He practically ran all the way back to Gryffindor Tower. His heart was racing, although what it was racing he couldn't quite say. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a tumbledryer. He still couldn't quite believe it had happened. He expected to wake up, sheets all in a tangle, with Harry sitting beside him with that smart-ass expression that said 'You've been dreaming about her again, haven't you?'. It wasn't as if he was very good at keeping secrets. After all, he'd been trying to hide it from her, and she'd told him she'd known for absolutely ages.

Hermione had actually kissed him! On the lips and everything! In fact, they'd practically made out, behind the bushes, like... well, like practically all the other fifth years had at some stage. But, but it was Hermione! And that made all the difference.

He pounded up the stairs, robes streaming out behind him. Ten minutes, she said I had to be back at least ten minutes before curfew, he thought, turning that last corner. He didn't understand why it was meant to be such a big secret, didn't see how anyone was not going to guess from the massive grin that was plastered across his face, perhaps forever. Even the Fat Lady gave him a knowing smirk as he garbled the password, "Fishcakes! No, it's changed hasn't it... um... Eggwhite!". He tried desperately to compose himself as he walked up the stairs, but he knew that it was no use. He pushed open the door to find Harry sitting there, on the end of his bed (why couldn't Harry ever sit on his own bed?), looking up at him with a mixture of the amusement he'd expected and... something else.


But... but hadn't it been obvious from the start that Hermione was his? And how could Harry have known without even having looked at him? It just wasn't fair. It shouldn't be like this. It should have been a glorious occasion, Harry with that knowing grin of his, with a welcoming hug for the returning hero. But there he was, sitting there as if Ron had knifed him in the back or something. He though that he should say "I'm sorry," or something, but it didn't seem right; he *wasn't* sorry, he'd do it again in an instant, hopefully many times.

No. No, it wasn't hurt, was it. As usual, he'd misread the expression on the face of his enigmatic friend. It was... it was pity.

"I see she didn't manage to tell you, then?" asked Harry with a note of sadness in his voice. "I'm sorry, Ron."

And that was when he saw the ring on Harry's ring finger, and remembered the one on Hermione's, the identical twin of the one before him now. With an inarticulate cry of pain and rage, he threw himself at his once best friend, trying to rip the ring off his finger, as if that would make any difference. Harry fought back, but let him take the ring, throw it to the floor, eventually stop struggling and begin to cry.